Well, the end of the semester came and went last week, and little by little, I’m sifting through everything I have learned and experienced. (And I took some time out to bake some Christmas cookies, too!) With a new job, an internship, and a whole new city, that meant a lot of sifting. Here’s what I’m taking away from this semester.
Be really, really proactive: In order for me to ensure that I get those hours completed, I need to stay on top of them and work closely with my supervisor to make sure I have enough hours each week. Being proactive also means seizing opportunities or making opportunities, and not being afraid to ask for things. Even though I’m pretty proactive when it comes to my education, I found myself extremely frustrated at first with trying to fit myself into the system that already existed at my site. I think we’ve reached a better balance now. In addition, I’m lucky to have a day job with a nonprofit boasting a great can-do culture and I am expected to be proactive at work, meaning this attitude eventually transferred to my internship site as well.
Do not be afraid: Don’t be afraid to visit dark places with clients, don’t be afraid of getting enough hours, don’t be afraid of the road that lies after graduation. Just keep at it. My musicology master’s thesis included, this internship is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done due to the sheer time and effort it requires. But I found that fear paralyzes me--the opposite of being proactive. I’m now looking at a big capstone research project, and while I’m so very, very excited about the prospect, I’m also feeling some fear and doubt. Time to get proactive!
Be myself: It really works. I can’t be my supervisor, or my advisor, or anyone else that I really admire, much as that seemingly stinks. But I can be myself, and that’s useful and helpful to my clients. I can model some of the things I do after those people that I admire and discard the things that don’t work for me. In addition, my new job values ME, and that has helped immensely. Suddenly, I’m with people who genuinely value what I have to offer instead of focusing endlessly on the things I can’t offer. I hope that the congruence I strive to provide to clients can be a piece in building relationships and affecting change.
Rely on my outside resources: Even from 1,000 miles away, my academic advisor has been an invaluable resource. I am constantly grateful for his wisdom and support. My site supervisor has also become a trusted resource, once I figured out how best to communicate with her. My colleagues on site have different life experiences and different areas of expertise, meaning I have a wide range of resources in them. And my family, friends, coworkers, and past mentors have all served as resources throughout this semester. At first, reaching out felt more like copping out and admitting defeat, but really, it’s another form of being proactive.
This whole internship is still very much a work in progress. By May, I hope to come out with more than a counseling degree--I hope to gain a stronger sense of who I am, what I can accomplish, and where I’m going.
For all of us, here’s to a happy and healthy New Year filled with good challenges and growth!
Kristen Eckhardt is a counselor-in-training at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, completing her internship this year in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Read more about her experiences and her takes on counseling issues at www.feetintwoworlds.wordpress.com.